It wasn’t a prediction, like Joe Namath’s brash guarantee before Super Bowl III, but to Green Bay, it was just as big.
“Heck yeah,” Cook said last week, days before the catch. “It’s a bold statement for somebody to make in the type of game that we play. And we rallied behind him.”
It helps, of course, that Rodgers has backed up his words and put together one of the most dominant eight-week runs in NFL history. No quarterback in recent memory has been more clutch, more accurate, more confident. That 35-yard pass to Cook came just two plays after Rodgers had been crushed on a blindside hit, his throwing arm wilting as he fell to the ground, yet Rodgers somehow managed to hang on to the ball. He had 35 seconds for the final scoring drive. And it was way too much time to give Rodgers. “Let’s just get this done” is what Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga thinks he heard from Rodgers in those chaotic final seconds.
McCarthy has struggled with game management in key situations during previous playoffs. As I wrote about on Sunday, McCarthy has shown little aptitude for handling his team’s fourth-quarter decisions, particularly as an underdog.
Against the Seahawks two years ago, McCarthy kicked twice on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter, then clung to a bizarre emphasis on the number of carries his team should have in the second half in an attempt to hold on to the lead.
You might argue that McCarthy was unlucky to lose the coin toss and have his defense give up a season-ending touchdown within three plays from scrimmage after his decision to kick the extra point, that it was the worst possible outcome for his decision. That’s fair. It’s also fair to say he got the best possible outcome for making the same sort of bizarrely conservative mistake again last Sunday against the Cowboys.